Why do I feel like writing in the wee-hours of the night? I really should be sleeping, but any blogger/writer/artist knows: you cannot go about doing something else when a spark of curiosity or memoir or thought, runs across your brain. Iʻm writing about this word pili. According to Ulukau, the online Hawaiian dictionary, it means “1. nvi. To cling, stick, adhere, touch, join, adjoin, cleave to, associate with, be with, be close or adjacent; clinging, sticking; close relationship, relative; thing belonging to…”
Even if you have no background or surface knowledge of Hawaiian words, anyone can easily sit back and look into the distance, retracing any significant or minuscule memory of a person, place or thing that was once or is pili to he or she. I visited a ranch just out of Hilo this weekend and my host is a very special friend to me, whom had earned living rights to the property over years of visiting and caring for it. Our goal while staying there was to help in any way we could, fixing things we could fix, feeding animals we could feed, and enjoying the serenity of the landscape, pulling our minds away from school, work, and basically reality.
During our time there, I saw my friend, pili to the work we did, pili to the things that lived there, pili to the people heʻs known there, pili to the lifestyle, and pili to the place. His passion made me think about my own pili. What places and things do I connect with, cherish and would give anything to see still standing when Iʻm 83, 98, years old…
I thought, and thunk.
Aunty Haliʻaʻs big yard with a coconut tree every five feet. Uncle Royʻs trolling spots up Nāwiliwili River. Puʻuʻualakaʻa. Uncle Whitlowʻs rope swing. The surf homebreak. The cement block at Kaionaʻs. Kakaroach bay. That room in the Nuʻuanu house where I played space-ship with my brother, using dadʻs old computer gadgets. Kōkeʻe with Grama Julia.
ʻPlaceʻ plays such an essential role in our deciding who to be. And I think that is one of the most beautiful things in this world; that people experience the essence of a particular surrounding and are able to humble themselves enough to find a deep sense of appreciation for it. All of a sudden you realize that your environment then and there is unlike any other and needs to be kept that way. With appreciation comes respect, then responsibility. When someone is pili to a place, when we are pili to place, I believe weʻre the best self we can be. At that moment in time, we are our truest forms of human and spirit.
This guy, and this ranch, and this place we were in, you could see cords connecting all three. And in his eyes you could see the purest love for it all, stopping at nothing short of unconditional. It may seem unimportant, but to the person who is pili with it, it is of the utmost importance.
We are fond of and prioritize depending on, the things and places and people we are pili to, pili with. It is an unseen connection, a deep revelation in the person. It gives us identity and purpose, that only God knows for certain, but we can feel in our gut. Maybe the time has come for my generation, and all those listening, to trace back. Go back to the places we are pili with, and make a difference because we know we can; we are pili and thatʻs all the confidence we need to take action. Mom always said to leave a place ten times nicer than it was when you arrived. Well, thatʻs easy,..if youʻre pili.